You’re the Shepherd
8 Principles to Help You Guide Your People Through a Building Campaign

By Russ Priddy

The anticipation of something new, the completion of a major project, the culmination of hard work, the start of a new era – all are signified when the congregation gathers for the first time in its new worship center, family life facility or education building. Few people in attendance, however, will realize just how much prayer, effort and, perhaps, even tears went into the project’s successful completion.

In the past few years, I’ve had the privilege of working with many church leaders who’ve accomplished such projects. Aside from a lot of prayer and effort, there are additional building principles laid out in the Book of Nehemiah.

1. Understand your situation. I don’ t believe God wants us to build just for the sake of building. A new facility should serve as a ministry center, where the needs of the church and community are met. It’s time to put a building plan in place if the sanctuary is full and you can’t grow anymore, and/or if you don’t have enough space to disciple the people who are coming to learn.

Even though he was geographically removed from Jerusalem, Nehemiah knew that many of God’s people had returned from exile. He also knew that the walls of the city had been broken down, leaving it unprotected. Those walls needed to be rebuilt so God’s people could once again live and worship in safety.

Nehemiah recognized the need and knew what to do to meet it. Every church leader should look at his or her church and community from time to time to determine just what the present and future needs are, then focus on just what it’s going to take to fix the problem, be it more space for worship, parking, education or recreation.

2. Know what God wants you to accomplish. Most people call this the vision. The Bible says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” This simply means that things work best when everyone is working together for a common purpose.

I liken it to a football play: The vision is to score a touchdown, and the play is called by the coach and given to the quarterback, who then relays the play to the other players on the team. The play determines the responsibility of every other player. If it’s a pass play, the wide receivers will run their patterns, the running back will block and release, and the offensive line will block the defense’s players so that the quarterback has time to throw the pass.

In the Church, we believe God is the coach and that the quarterback is the church leadership. When all understand what needs to be done, the members’ responsibility is to use their gifts and talents to successfully complete the task at hand.

3. If the project is to get done, you must lead. Jesus wasn’t paying us a compliment when He referred to His followers as sheep. Sheep are incapable of accomplishing much without a shepherd. The shepherd leads them with love, purpose and concern.

God works through leaders. Where would we be as the people of God had Moses, Joshua, David, Peter, Paul and a host of others not responded to His call to lead His people? A leader must love God, love His people and know what God has called him or her to accomplish for His glory.

4. Build consensus. In Nehemiah 2:17, Nehemiah says to the other leaders, “Come let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem and we will no longer be a disgrace.” Nehemiah knew that it would take the effort of many people to rebuild the wall.

Every pastor needs to communicate to members what needs to be done and what positive affect that will have for everyone. He or she also needs to understand that the more people agree, the easier it will be to accomplish the task at hand. Twenty-first-century people don’t blindly follow leaders; they will, however, follow someone they know and believe in who tells them where they’re headed.

5. Share the responsibilities. Successful leaders understand that the talents of people within the church should be used to accomplish the vision. David needed the mighty men to accomplish God’s vision for his leadership of the nation of Israel. Pastors also need to understand that there are people whom God has blessed with specific talents within the congregation. They can be called upon in the building effort. The following questions must be answered before the building is ever started:

  • What’s needed?
  • How much will it cost?
  • How will we pay for it?
  • Who will help accomplish this?
  • Who will benefit?
  • What will our needs be beyond this?

6. Expect opposition. The Book of Nehemiah tells us that not everyone in Jerusalem wanted the walls to be rebuilt. Sanballet led opposition to Nehemiah, and he wasn’t alone. Every church has its own negative members. Some pastors have told me they have a few people who would probably vote against the second coming if it were up to them.

That said, you might not have it quite that bad, but there probably are some in your congregation who will resist change. They might not want to make the transition or grow anymore or reach any new people for any reason, but you can’t let those few people hold back the entire church.

7. Offer encouragement along the way. In Nehemiah 4:20, Nehemiah reminds the people, “Our God will fight for us.” The building process will take time. It will be a lot of work. There will be setbacks, and sometimes people will get discouraged. Pastors need to constantly encourage their members, remind them that they’re in this together and that God is with them. They do the work, but He accomplishes the final result.

8. Enjoy the victory. At the end of all this, there will be a dedication. Remember that it’s OK to enjoy the victory God has given you. And it’s important to relish it while you can because as your church continues to grow, there might very well be another challenge in the near future, and you’ll be called to do it all over again.

Russ Priddy is the Lead Consultant for Ascend Stewardship and Consulting. He has a B.B.A degree in marketing from Marshall University, an MBA in finance from the West Virginia University College of Graduate Studies, and a Master of Divinity from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.


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